In a recent David Brooks column lamenting the decline of Judeo-Christian culture in America, the following sentence appeared:
In Corinthians, Jesus tells the crowds, “Not many of you were wise by worldly standards, not many were influential, not many were of noble birth.”
Where to begin analyzing this unbelievable error? Until proven otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and pronounce it the most ironic fact-checking oversight in the history of the esteemed New York Times.
To anyone formed in the Judeo-Christian heritage, the one so exalted by Brooks, it is self-evident that Jesus did not go to Greece or author 1 Corinthians…
On the fact checkers: I have great respect for these folks at the Times. They have an extremely difficult job at what is the best and most fast-paced newsroom in the country…But in this case, a group of fact-checkers–multiple people–read over this sentence and not one of them stopped the error. What that reveals is profound: the staff at the Times is not as secular as we think they are. They are even more secular than we think they are.
To not know that Jesus did not speak to people in Greece would be like not knowing a basic fact about the most important figures of American history. Letting his error through would be akin to: charting Columbus’s voyage on the Mayflower; assigning the wrong author to the Emancipation Proclamation; praising Malcolm X’s “I Have a Dream” Speech; recounting Kennedy’s trip to China; or commemorating Bush’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall” moment…
And so, when we turn from Mr. Brooks to the fact-checkers, we find that his comical irony becomes a kind of tragic irony. The group of fact-checkers has embodied the very absence of Judeo-Christian culture bemoaned in the column itself.